In a cruel twist of fate, I happened to be conducting permaculture tours and hot composting workshops at Northey Street City Farm during one of our heatwaves. We had a massive group of amazing Chinese students from Guangzhou visiting over a four day period. The students knew very little English (as I know little Chinese) so it was challenging for all in challenging conditions. However in my desperation to describe nitrogen materials, namely animal manure, I used one universally understood word for poo starting with S. This proved to be absolutely hilarious to the group and seemed to provide renewed energy when we were fading fast. They carried on like troopers, shovelling animal s*** to build compost on a 35 degree day with smiles on their faces. The moral of this story is sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. Then use your spade to keep on shovelling whenever life gives you s***. I’m actually just making a lot of this up because it is so hot, I can’t think straight.
Ceylon spinach (Basella alba) also known as Malabar Greens is another permaculture plant revelation. This annual vine has a bit of an alien quality about it, like if you stand still long enough it will wrap its tentacles around you. Although it’s not a true spinach, the leaves and shoots taste the same and you treat it the same. I tend to eat it raw in salads. Like other leafy greens, Ceylon spinach is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium, and unlike other spinach in the heat of summer, it will not go bitter. It grows easily, likes lots of water and loves hot, tropical weather. When planting seeds, mix soil with a few handfuls of compost, water well and they should germinate in a few weeks. Try and fertilise regularly with liquid manure or fish emulsion when it’s hot. You just need to pick off the flowers and harvest regularly to encourage growth. Now I’m warning you, as this is a vine, I would advise growing in a big pot with a trellis (you can roll wire mesh into a cylinder to fit the diameter of the pot). However, if you have the space (like me) you can let it go feral in your garden. I’m telling you this plant is a summer must :: Jem x